My head is spinning. I’m caught up in a vortex of seasons that have become indistinguishable because of the speed of their circling around me. They all seem to blend into one, with no beginning or end. I don’t know where I am or where I’m going. Might you have the same feeling this time of year?
It’s mid-August, and the kids are back in school, so it’s safe, I hope, to assume Back to School "season" has ended with its frenzy and flurry of shopping for clothes and school supplies. College kids will be settled into their dorms by this weekend as classes begin next week. Whew! That’s one "season" down. I think.
The actual season called summer will linger until the official start of fall on the twenty-third of September. Ah, Fall, with hopes of cooler temperatures. Cherish those hopes because it will be well into October (November?) before we experience anything that might be termed cool. After a summer like this one, anything south of 90 degrees might be considered "cool," agreed?
But wait, while the calendar still says summer, in the stores we’re already being assaulted by an amalgam of "seasons" that never end, but blur one into another until after New Year’s Day. We’ll wake up on January 2nd, exhausted by a marathon created, I’m certain, by demon marketing types working in collusion with each other in some dark and dank basement.
Halloween scarecrows, dismembered arms, witches’ accessories and ghoulish critters are already up for purchase in places that sell such wares. Somber Pilgrims, laughing turkeys and fake pumpkins are arrayed next to them. And not too far away, you’ll find the beginning roll-out of Christmas décor. All this while department and discount stores are trying to rid themselves of tired looking summer clothes and accessories. After the flurry of Christmas gift-buying and partying, there will be New Year’s to celebrate, and then the Super Bowl. Save me.
All these are "seasons" crafted by manufacturers and retailers hoping to sell us something. Consumer spending is, indeed, the engine that drives the U.S. economy, and, as dismaying as it might sound, if we don’t or can’t spend, this economy will never get out of the ditch.
But with around 10 percent of us out of work and many, many more worried about their long-term financial stability; we’ve learned something about shopping. What we’ve learned is going to transform the economy we’ve known all our lives. One thing is that shopping can no longer be considered a form of recreation. There are other less expensive ways to "self-soothe," as the psychologists put it. Another thing is that if we don’t really, really love it, we’re not going to buy it. In the past, we might have spent money loosely on things just because they appeared to be the ultimate deep-discounted bargain, but we’re scrutinizing those decisions more closely now, questioning whether we really, really need it. If not, it goes back in the bin.
I’ve become more like the shopper my husband is, and he’s no different from most men, I believe. He’ll go to the store for one thing only, looking neither to the right nor left. He’ll buy it, and then he’s out of there. I’m slowly learning that’s what these times require: to be more targeted and discriminating and not to be swayed by attractive displays and clever marketing to which I might have succumbed in other times. Those whose job it is to sell will just have to work a bit harder to pry loose my credit card or cash.
Barbara Morgan is a resident of Covington with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics Her column appears on Fridays.